The CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2009
Winner: The Last Child by John Hart
Prize: £2000, sponsor: Ian Fleming Publications Ltd
London, Wednesday, 21st October, 2009: JOHN HART has won the 2009 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger and a cheque for £2000. He was presented with his award at The Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards 2009, a prestigious event hosted by comedian Alan Davies at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel, and televised on ITV3.
The judges said that his was an accomplished and ambitious piece of southern gothic. “It is beautifully rendered, with a cast of memorable characters - full of pathos, atmosphere and mystery. A cracking and original story.”
The broadest definition of the thriller novel is used for books eligible for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger; these can be set in any period and include, but are not limited to, spy fiction and/or action/ adventure stories. Ian Fleming said there was one essential criterion for a good thriller - that ‘one simply has to turn the page’; this is one of the main characteristics that the judges were looking for. A book is eligible if it was first published in the UK in English between June 1 2008 and May 31 2009.
The CWA Dagger Awards are the longest established literary awards in the UK and are internationally recognised as a mark of excellence and achievement. The other shortlisted books, in what the judges called ‘An exceptionally strong, literary short list’, were:
Michael Connelly: The Brass Verdict (Orion)
Gillian Flynn: Dark Places (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Charlie Newton: Calumet City (Bantam Press)
Daniel Silva: Moscow Rules (Michael Joseph)
Olen Steinhauer: The Tourist (HarperCollins)
Andrew Williams: The Interrogator (John Murray)
These are described in more detail below.
John Hart is the Edgar-Award winning author of two international bestsellers, The King of Lies and Down River. His books have been translated into twenty-six languages and published in over thirty countries. He was born in North Carolina in 1965, and lives with his wife and two young children in Rowan County. He has degrees in French, accounting and law, and worked as a banker, stockbroker and attorney before beginning his writing career.
He also says he
... spent long days sanding teak on the Carolina coast, working on helicopters in Alaska and drawing pints in a London pub. I think I liked the pub job best.
The Last Child is his third book. His web site is www.johnhartfiction.com
The Last Child
Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Johnny Merrimon has to face things no boy his age should face. In the year since his twin sister’s abduction his world has fallen apart: his father has disappeared and his fragile mother is spiralling into ever deeper despair. Johnny keeps strong.
Armed with a map, a bike and a flashlight, he stalks the bad men of Raven County. The police might have given up on Alyssa; he never will. Someone, somewhere, knows something they’re not telling. Only one person looks out for Johnny. Detective Clyde Hunt shares his obsession with the case.
But when Johnny witnesses a hit-and-run and insists the victim was killed because he’d found Alyssa, even Hunt thinks he’s lost it. And then another young girl goes missing ...
The Brass Verdict
Synopsis: Defence lawyer Mickey Haller has had some problems but now he's put all that behind him and is ready to resume his career. Then another lawyer, Vincent, dies, and Haller gets an unexpected windfall: he inherits all Vincent's clients - putting his stalled career back on track at a stroke.
Not only that, but Vincent had taken on a high profile and potentially lucrative murder case. It'll be a trial that promises big fees and an even bigger place in the media spotlight - and if Mickey can win against the odds, he'd really be back in the big leagues.
The only problem is the detective handling the case - a certain Harry Bosch - is convinced the killer must be one of Vincent's clients. Suddenly Mickey is faced with the biggest challenge of his career: how to successfully defend a client who might just be planning to murder him.
Judges’ comments: A highly accomplished legal thriller. Very readable with good twists and an engaging lead character. Never less than compelling to the very last page.
Michael Connelly, a former police reporter for the Los Angeles Times, is the author of Harry Bosch thriller series as well as several stand-alone bestsellers, including the highly acclaimed legal thriller, The Lincoln Lawyer, selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club.
Michael Connelly has been President of the Mystery Writers of America. His books have been translated into 31 languages and have won awards all over the world, including the Edgar and Anthony Awards. He lives in Tampa, Florida, with his family.
Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Synopsis: Libby Day was just seven years old when her older brother massacred her family while she hid in a cupboard. Her evidence helped put him away. Ever since then she has been drifting, surviving for over twenty years on the proceeds of the 'Libby Day fund'. But now the money is running out and Libby is desperate. When she is offered $500 to do a guest appearance, she feels she has to accept. But this is no ordinary gathering. The Kill Club is a group of true-crime obsessives who share information on notorious murders, and they think her brother Ben is innocent.
It is 2 January 1985 - the day of the murders. Ben is a social misfit, ground down by the small-town farming community in which he lives. His family is extremely poor, and his father Runner is violent, gambles and disappears for months on end. But Ben does have a girlfriend - a brooding heavy metal fan called Diondra. Through her, Ben becomes involved with drugs and the dark arts. When the town suddenly turns against him, his thoughts turn black. But is he capable of murder? In a brilliantly interwoven plot, Gillian Flynn keeps the reader balanced on a knife-edge, as Libby delves into her family's past and Ben spirals towards destruction.
Judges’ comments: Exceptionally good, mystery thriller that surprises to the end. The central character is beautifully drawn and the structure of the book - the two time scales working towards a single crescendo - is skilfully handled.
Gillian Flynn comes from Kansas City, the daughter of a Film Professor and a reading teacher. Given this background, it’s perhaps not surprising that she has ended up as chief TV critic for Entertainment Weekly. She’s a graduate of the University of Kansas, and has a Master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. She first acquired a love of mystery novels by reading Agatha Christie. Her first novel, Sharp Objects, won both the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger and the John Creasey New Blood Dagger in 2007. She lives in Chicago.
Synopsis: Patti Black is the most decorated cop in Chicago; a ghetto street officer, she redefines the word badass. But the steel-plated exterior she shows to the world – solitary, friendless, loveless – hides the hideous traumas of her past. As an orphaned child, she was horribly sexually abused by her foster parents, and the torments of the past are only barely contained by her meticulously maintained tough-guy persona. When a serious of seemingly unrelated cases – a drug bust gone bad, a mayoral assassination attempt, the abduction and murder of a states attorney, a long-hidden body walled up in a tenement basement – all point in her direction, she comes to the horrified realization that her past is no longer staying in its deeply suppressed place. It’s back and it’s hunting her down.
Judges’ comments: An addictively good read, original, pacy, with a ballsy and believable heroine and a complex and absorbing plot. A great sense of place and real tension. Sharp and distinctive voice.
Charlie Newton's early career (as recorded on his web site) leaned toward pirate-adventurer rather than responsible citizen, living and working in exotic, often-unhealthy places, doing some of the devil's business and some of the king's. The semi-adult epiphany arrived with his thirtieth birthday. Charlie Newton has built successful bars/restaurants and resort apartments, raced thoroughbreds that weren't quite so successful, and brokered television and film in the Middle East to gentlemen who often weren't. Generally speaking, he's lived a life in the borderlands (literal and figurative) where stories like Calumet City happen. And survived to enjoy it.
Synopsis: The violent death of a journalist leads agent turned art-restorer, Gabriel Allon to Russia. Here he finds that in terms of spycraft, the stakes are the highest they've ever been. He's playing by
Moscow Rules now.
It is not the grim Moscow of Soviet times, but a new Moscow, awash in oil wealth and bulletproof Bentleys. A Moscow where a new generation of Stalinists is plotting to reclaim an empire lost, and to challenge the global dominance of its old enemy, the United States...
Judges’ comments: A masterful rendering of a story that sounds uncomfortably close to the truth. A credible cast of characters, written with style and wit. It's great to be in the hands of a writer who knows exactly what he is doing.
Daniel Silva knew from a very early age that he wanted to become a writer, but his first profession would be journalism. Born in Michigan, raised and educated in California, he was pursuing a master’s degree in international relations when he received a temporary job offer from United Press International. Later that year Silva abandoned his studies and joined UPI fulltime, ending up as Middle East correspondent in Cairo and the Persian Gulf. In 1987, while covering the Iran-Iraq war, he met NBC Today National Correspondent Jamie Gangel and they were married later that year. Silva returned to Washington and went to work for CNN.
He left CNN in 1997 after his first book The Unlikely Spy became an instant bestseller and began writing full time. Since then all of Silva's books have been New York Times and international bestsellers. His books have been translated in to more than 25 languages. Silva continues to live in Washington with his wife and children. When not writing he can usually be found roaming the stacks of the Georgetown University library, where he does much of the research for his books.
Synopsis: In the global age of the CIA, wherever there's trouble, there's a Tourist: the men and women who do the dirty work. They're the Company's best agents – and Milo Weaver was the best of them all.
Following a near-lethal encounter with foreign hitman the 'Tiger', a burnt-out Milo decides to continue his work from behind a desk. Four years later, he's no closer to finding the Tiger than he was before. When the elusive assassin unexpectedly gives himself up to Milo, it's because he wants something in return: revenge.
Once a Tourist, always a Tourist – soon Milo is back in the field, tracking down the Tiger's handler in a world of betrayal, skewed politics and extreme violence. It's a world he knows well but he's about to learn the toughest lesson of all: trust no one.
Judges’ comments: Unorthodox, unsentimental and gripping spy thriller. Traditional but with enough of a fresh stance to make it stand out. The protagonist is tough but sympathetic and convincingly realised.
Olen Steinhauer was born in Virginia and grew up in Texas where he attended the state University in Austin. He was inspired to write his Eastern European series while on a Fullbright Fellowship in Romania to write about the 1989 revolution. He moved to New York to sell his book and began the second while in Florence. It was in Budapest, Hungary, that he finished it and still resides. His first novel, The Bridge of Sighs was shortlisted for the 2003 Ellis Peters Historical Dagger.
Synopsis: Spring, 1941. The armies of the Reich are masters of Europe. Britain stands alone, dependent on her battered navy for survival, while Hitler’s submarines – his ‘grey wolves’ - prey on the Atlantic convoys that are the country’s only lifeline. Lieutenant Douglas Lindsay is amongst just a handful of men picked up when his ship is torpedoed. Unable to free himself from the memories of that night at sea, he becomes an interrogator with naval intelligence, questioning captured U-Boat crews.
He is convinced the Germans have broken British naval codes, but he’s a lone voice, a damaged outsider, and his superiors begin to wonder - can he really be trusted when so much is at stake? As the Blitz reduces Britain's cities to rubble and losses at sea mount, Lindsay becomes increasingly isolated and desperate. No one will believe him, not even his lover, Mary Henderson, who works at the very heart of the intelligence establishment.
Lindsay decides to risk all in one last throw of the dice, setting a trap for his prize captive - and nemisis - U-Boat Commander Jürgen Mohr, the man who sent his ship to its doom…
Judges’ comments: Serious, well-written and thoroughly researched world war two drama. Seamlessly interweaves real historical events with flawlessly imagined characters at a critical moment in British history.
Andrew Williams is an acclaimed BBC drama documentary producer and the author of two bestselling non-fiction books: The Battle of the Atlantic and D-Day to Berlin.
Corinne B Turner (Administrative Chair): manages intellectual property development and is Managing Director of Ian Fleming Publications Ltd.
Sarah Fairbairn: Editorial Manager at Ian Fleming Publications Ltd.
Philip Gooden: writer of fiction and non-fiction, and a past Chairman of the CWA.
Samantha Weinberg: writer and winner of the 2003 CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction. She is the author of the Moneypenny Diaries trilogy (writing as Kate Westbrook).
Rob Williams: until recently Penguin's first Creative Director and is now a Screenwriter, currently working on BBC continuing drama series.
David Wilson: Head of Creative and Business Affairs at Eon Workshop. He has worked in feature film production for the past sixteen years on eleven films, including recently as assistant producer of Casino Royale.
To be eligible in this round, books must have had their first UK publication between 1 June 2008 and 31 May 2009.